As MLB regular season starts up, it does so knowing that next spring, 2020, will bring with it a special anniversary: the inception of Negro League Baseball.
It was back in February of 1920 that talks were held in Kansas City, Missouri, that would lead to the formation of the Negro National League and its governing body the National Association of Colored Professional Base Ball Clubs. The first games took place in May. Clubs – and their fortunes – varied over the ensuing decades, but finally closed in the face of widespread integration. (Trivia point: The Negro Leagues additionally had Latin American players who also faced discrimination in the sport.)
The centennial of the Negro League, though it is a year away, has already begun to be celebrated. The York (Pennsylvania) Revolution recently noted that it will host Negro League Night at PeoplesBank Park. The Saturday night event will feature an auction of game-worn commemorative jerseys presented by PeoplesBank to benefit the William C. Goodridge Freedom Center and Underground Railroad Museum managed by the Crispus Attucks Association of York. The Revs also announced new hospitality spaces at the park with historically inspired names – the Monarch and Solomon Rooms. The Monarch Room honors York’s Negro League team, the Colored Monarchs of the Diamond, and the the Solomon Room honors the legacy of King Solomon “Sol” White, second baseman of the Colored Monarchs of the Diamond during their season in York and a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Charleston, South Carolina, RiverDogs, by comparison, will host Larry Doby Heritage Weekend presented by MUSC Health on June 29 and 30. The RiverDogs celebrate the legacy of the first player to break the color barrier in the American League during a two-day celebration. The RiverDogs will provide tickets to underrepresented youth sports groups in the area and honor the 1955 Cannon Street All-Stars, the first black Little League in the state of South Carolina, barred from participating in the Little League World Series. Per tradition, the RiverDogs will also don the uniforms of the Newark Eagles, the Negro League club where Doby spent five seasons, during Sunday's contest.
The Major League has gotten into the act too. On August 10, the Detroit Tigers have a home game (they host Kansas City) and will be wearing the old Detroit Stars uniform. They’ll also be giving away replica Stars jerseys.
And don’t think Kansas City, where this all began, is going to be left out. The city that hosted the talks that led to the formation of the Negro League, and the home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, is planning a yearlong celebration. It all starts on February 13, 2020.
With the centennial of the meeting coming around the time MLB and MiLB players will report for spring training in 2020, it’s time to start developing those ideas now for honoring the trailblazing athletes who inspired generations. The summer is likely to be a celebration of events and baseball teams at all levels can get involved with educational and awareness efforts and commemorative promotions.